Discussion:
My Ma Vlast problem
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Ed Presson
2021-11-19 19:45:47 UTC
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Here's my problem: I have never found a recording of Smetana's Ma Vlast
that I found so compelling
that I wanted to hear it again soon. Or at all. I started with an
open-reel tape of Kubelik/Boston Symphony
recording on DG many decades ago. Then Sawallish/Suisse Romande on RCA LPs
and Smetacek/Czech
Philharmonic on Pro Arte LPs. On CD, I picked up a Smetana "sampler" with
James Levine and the
Vienna Philharmonic, followed by Kuchar/Janacek Philharmonic on Brilliant
(reviews lauding it
as one of the most exciting).

I started looking again at reviews, and I think I finally found an answer to
my problem. A Fanfare
critic wrote that a listener looking for depth of musical content should
look elsewhere; that
Ma Vlast should be considered a wonderful "wallow" rather like
Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade.

I've been expecting too much from this collection of tone poems. I was
considering the Jarvi/Chandos
(rated one of the most exciting) and the recent Belohlavek on Decca (rave
reviews for its emotionally
deep reading and wonderful playing and recorded sound). At the moment, I've
put these considerations
aside.

Does anyone have some further insights or recommendations for how to
approach Ma Vlast?
Flowsouth8
2021-11-19 19:55:08 UTC
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Here's my problem: I have never found a recording of Smetana's Ma Vlast
that I found so compelling
that I wanted to hear it again soon. Or at all. I started with an
open-reel tape of Kubelik/Boston Symphony
recording on DG many decades ago. Then Sawallish/Suisse Romande on RCA LPs
and Smetacek/Czech
Philharmonic on Pro Arte LPs. On CD, I picked up a Smetana "sampler" with
James Levine and the
Vienna Philharmonic, followed by Kuchar/Janacek Philharmonic on Brilliant
(reviews lauding it
as one of the most exciting).
I started looking again at reviews, and I think I finally found an answer to
my problem. A Fanfare
critic wrote that a listener looking for depth of musical content should
look elsewhere; that
Ma Vlast should be considered a wonderful "wallow" rather like
Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade.
I've been expecting too much from this collection of tone poems. I was
considering the Jarvi/Chandos
(rated one of the most exciting) and the recent Belohlavek on Decca (rave
reviews for its emotionally
deep reading and wonderful playing and recorded sound). At the moment, I've
put these considerations
aside.
Does anyone have some further insights or recommendations for how to
approach Ma Vlast?
Not really, apart from agreeing with you that it's pretty difficult to find an outstanding recording for some reason. I find Scheherazade to have good replay value.
raymond....@gmail.com
2021-11-19 21:42:13 UTC
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Post by Ed Presson
Does anyone have some further insights or recommendations for how to
approach Ma Vlast?
Fwiw Paavo Berglund always maintained his pride at doing Ma Vlast with the Dresden band. I have it in Berglund's Warner Icon box. Other than Berglund I find Wit/Polish RSNO very good with a more spacious reading. Of course, then there are the several Kubelik readings. People also say good things about Ancerl's recording too.

The one movement where I look for excitement in this piece is from the opening of Bohemia's Woods and Fields. The two following movements I generally skip to be honest. Scheherezade is a better piece altogether in that it is a unified whole, but Ma Vlast has its glorious moments.

Ray Hall, Taree
wkasimer
2021-11-19 21:45:30 UTC
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Here's my problem: I have never found a recording of Smetana's Ma Vlast
that I found so compelling
that I wanted to hear it again soon. Or at all.
Does anyone have some further insights or recommendations for how to
approach Ma Vlast?
I admit that I have an irrational fondness for the work, and have far too many recordings of it, but I'll admit that when the time comes to downsize my collection, it's a work where one recording will suffice nicely - probably Mackerras' with the Czech PO.
Bob Harper
2021-11-19 23:25:21 UTC
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Post by wkasimer
Here's my problem: I have never found a recording of Smetana's Ma Vlast
that I found so compelling
that I wanted to hear it again soon. Or at all.
Does anyone have some further insights or recommendations for how to
approach Ma Vlast?
I admit that I have an irrational fondness for the work, and have far too many recordings of it, but I'll admit that when the time comes to downsize my collection, it's a work where one recording will suffice nicely - probably Mackerras' with the Czech PO.
Really? unmentioned so far is Ancerl (sui generis) and Kubelik's return
to the CPO in 1980, just to name two that I think are essential.

Bob Harper
peter gutmann
2021-11-23 21:04:05 UTC
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I should add that the Supraphon version (also on YouTube) is not only in dimmer AM-quality sound but cuts off the final applause before the stirring anthem for a lengthy announcement.
Sorry, but no. Aside from a complete absence of applause, the timings are vastly different, e.g., the finale in 1939 runs barely 12½ minutes while these are 14 and 15. YouTube has a version of the 1939 concert in surprisingly decent sound posted 2 months ago by Restoration Archive.
On Sat, 20 Nov 2021 11:19:53 -0800, Bob Harper
Post by Bob Harper
Really? unmentioned so far is Ancerl (sui generis) and Kubelik's return
to the CPO in 1980, just to name two that I think are essential.
Yes, to my mind these are outstanding recordings. I have had copies of the 1963 Ancerl (Supraphon), first LP and then CD, for well over 50 years and haven't tired of it yet. Kubelik coming out of retirement and out of exile in 1990 (I assume your 1980 is a typo) is a great occasion. There is a third recording that demands to be heard - the 1939 Prague Spring Festival performance conducted by Vaclav Talich (Supraphon SU40652). I doubt that this performance, given less than three months after the Nazis entered Prague, is quite what Smetana intended. It is angry, almost violent, but knowing the circumstances, sounds so right. I wonder how many people from that 1939 audience survived to hear Kubelik's celebratory performance in 1990.
Yes, 1990. Thanks for the correction. And yes, the 1939 with Talich is
just as you describe. I would not be without it.
Bob Harper
Spotify has a 2011 release by Russian Compact Disc of a performance by
Talich and the Czech Phil. Orchestra with the date 1997 also given. It
also has a 2021 remastering of a performance with the same forces that
may or may not be from 1954. Talich died in 1961. Is either the 1939
performance that you are praising?
Alan Hayward
2021-11-24 22:32:53 UTC
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Post by peter gutmann
I should add that the Supraphon version (also on YouTube) is not only in dimmer AM-quality sound but cuts off the final applause before the stirring anthem for a lengthy announcement.
If I have understood your comment correctly, the YouTube copy is quite different to the Supraphon CD. On the CD the applause starts as soon as Blanik ends. After a while singing can be heard which rapidly increases in volume as more and more members of the audience join in what turns out to be the Czech national anthem. The applause then fades. The announcement comes after all that and on a separate track. I haven't heard the YouTube copy of the Supraphon disc so cannot compare the sound with that of the CD. The CD, however, apart from distortion in Vyšehrad is better then I had expected.

I'm not sure I understand what Ed means by "musical worth". Ma Vlast's worth to the Czech people, however, is quite apparent on their reaction to both the Kubelik and Talich performances, especially the latter.
peter gutmann
2021-11-25 01:13:43 UTC
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In response to Ricardo's inquiry yesterday, I spot-checked both of the Spotify recordings (which, as is so often the case, omit liner notes, documentation or other identification and thus frustrate one's ability to determine which of several performances they might be). I then wanted to be able to recommend a readily-available source for anyone interested in reliving this astounding event. That led me to YouTube and I spot-checked both of those versions as well. I don't have the Supraphon CD and just relied on its YouTube posting, which disappointingly cuts off the final applause abruptly, omits the anthem (arguably the most moving, and certainly an integral, part of the concert) and goes straight to a lengthy announcement. I'm glad to know that the CD itself is complete and possibly in decent fidelity. In any event, the more recent YouTube posting of the concert from Restoration Archive seems both complete and in appreciably better sound than the Supraphon edition (at least as it's heard on YouTube), or, for that matter, the version I downloaded years ago, perhaps from this site(?). I would urge anyone seeking a deeply moving experience to hear the Restoration Archive edition.
Post by Alan Hayward
Post by peter gutmann
I should add that the Supraphon version (also on YouTube) is not only in dimmer AM-quality sound but cuts off the final applause before the stirring anthem for a lengthy announcement.
If I have understood your comment correctly, the YouTube copy is quite different to the Supraphon CD. On the CD the applause starts as soon as Blanik ends. After a while singing can be heard which rapidly increases in volume as more and more members of the audience join in what turns out to be the Czech national anthem. The applause then fades. The announcement comes after all that and on a separate track. I haven't heard the YouTube copy of the Supraphon disc so cannot compare the sound with that of the CD. The CD, however, apart from distortion in Vyšehrad is better then I had expected.
I'm not sure I understand what Ed means by "musical worth". Ma Vlast's worth to the Czech people, however, is quite apparent on their reaction to both the Kubelik and Talich performances, especially the latter.
Ed Presson
2021-11-25 18:35:09 UTC
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Post by peter gutmann
I should add that the Supraphon version (also on YouTube) is not only in
dimmer AM-quality sound but cuts off the final applause before the
stirring anthem for a lengthy announcement.
snip<
I'm not sure I understand what Ed means by "musical worth". Ma Vlast's
worth to the Czech people, however, is quite apparent on their reaction to
both the Kubelik and Talich performances, especially the >latter.
Probably a poor choice of words on my part. You raise a valid point: there
are different kinds of "worth" for different listeners.

Ed Presson

MELMOTH
2021-11-20 00:15:56 UTC
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Does anyone have some further insights or recommendations for how to approach
Ma Vlast?
*Karel ANCERL* ! (Suprphon)...
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